Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: Budge wanted the best - he got a living legend

Serena Williams in action during her first round win at the ASB Classic. Photosport
Serena Williams in action during her first round win at the ASB Classic. Photosport

My sporting Aucklander of the Year for 2016 is ... Auckland tennis tournament director Karl Budge, just ahead of the Duco people.

Duco - the Dean Lonergan and David Higgins show - put their dukes up every year. They make things happen. This time, they brought a sort-of world title fight to the city, and more importantly guided Joseph Parker into the top echelon of heavyweight challengers.

The pressure is on Higgins, who has taken over the boxing arm of Duco. Higgins is a babe in the woods, or a tiddler in a pool of sharks, when it comes to world boxing. On the down side, a $60 TV fee is over the top for one boxing contest.

Budge brought tennis legend Serena Williams to Auckland. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant stuff. The Auckland tennis tournaments have clung to credibility over the years and emerged as something to be really proud of and a central part of the city's holiday-period life.

Budge wanted to raise their status - and he is well on the way. Now he has to raise a roof, or raise the money for one. We need to treasure these tournaments, back Budge and his Auckland tennis cohorts, and make it happen.

As a colleague reckoned as we discussed the roof, if you lose your place on the biggest circuit in the game, you won't get it back. And we can't afford to stand still with an outdated arena.

Honorary Aucklanders of the Year are Venus Williams, for returning and helping get sister Serena here, and the PDC, for bringing the world's best darts players to the city again.

NRL playing God?

Message to the NRL: Stop playing God, give the green light to Kieran Foran's return with the Warriors, and let everybody get on with their jobs with kickoff just two months away.

The NRL is doing my head in pretending they know what's going on in Foran's head. Honestly.

I think the five-eighth's mental state is the issue. Then again, the NRL might still have questions about who Foran consorts with after allegations that he was hanging with the wrong crowd in Sydney. It's hard to tell what this is all about exactly.

It actually sounds like a lot of over-managed, image-conscious BS. Is there any investigating going on, or just transtasman phone calls and a lot of waffle?

If the NRL can't work out whether Foran passes the integrity test now, when will they?

The NRL is harming the game by dragging this out, because it suggests there are dark forces at work which they can't get a handle on.

There is also a natural justice issue here. They are damaging Foran's reputation through unwarranted procrastination. He deserves to be cleared or confronted.

And on the health side, Foran's meltdown occurred in April, eight months ago.

This is more than enough time for the NRL - which has trouble running a video bunker system, let alone delving into the mysteries of the mind - to get out of the way in this health issue.

Warriors fans, and the NRL in general, deserve something more decisive.

The whole business has been shrouded in weird confusion and has left new Warriors coach Steve Kearney in danger of hitting the ground wondering. Here's a simple idea. Either put up or shut up right now on the integrity front.

If the NRL can't put up, let the Warriors register Foran's contract, leaving the player, his support team and new employer to monitor and deal with his health issues like the adults they are ... and as professional clubs all around the world do without help from above.

- NZ Herald

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